Keep your guard up when selling big items on Facebook Marketplace. The Better Business Bureau has received reports of scammers targeting sellers and using peer-to-peer payment apps such as Zelle, Venmo, Paypal and Cash App to steal their money.
Here’s how the Facebook Marketplace scam works and how to avoid it.
How the scam works
The scam begins when you list a big-ticket item for several hundred dollars on Facebook Marketplace then are contacted by someone who wants to pay using a peer-to-peer payment app (Zelle, Venmo, Paypal, Cash App).
Once you receive the payment, you get an email that appears to be from the app saying that the buyer paid from a “business account” and that in order to accept the transfer, you’ll also need to upgrade your account. To do so, the scammer will agree to send you another $300 to upgrade your account if you’re willing to refund the amount, according to BBB.
These scams are sophisticated. Victims report receiving convincing emails from addresses such as email@example.com notifying them that they must upgrade to a business account to receive their funds. Victims also have received screenshots of what appears to be the payment within the app. Then, scammers persistently and aggressively pressure victims into repaying the money they advanced them to upgrade to a business account.
If you refund the money to the scammer, you’ll realize that they never sent you any money in the first place. You’ll be out the money—usually a few hundred dollars—and the scammer will vanish.
[ See: Don’t Fall for Zelle Scams ]
How to avoid the scam
There are several steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of a Facebook Marketplace scam. For starters, remember never use peer-to-peer payment apps to send or receive money from someone you don’t know. For the most part, you can’t cancel transactions once you’ve sent money through payment apps. And you likely won’t get your money back unless the person you sent it to is willing to refund it (which won’t happen if the person is a scammer).
Carefully check all email addresses: If you receive an email that appears to be from Zelle, Venmo, Cashapp or another payment app, double check the email address. Scammers often use email addresses that are similar to the legitimate ones businesses use.
Don’t trust people willing to overpay for your item: Unless the item that you’re selling is in high demand or rare, proceed with caution when buyers are willing to offer you substantially more than your asking price.
Read and review payment app policies: If someone claims you need to upgrade your account or pay an additional fee to accept payments, review the app’s policies on its official website or reach out to its customer support to verify the claim. Scammers will often make up fake policies.
What you can do
Report scams to Facebook Marketplace. If you spot someone trying to pull off a scam, even if you haven’t fallen victim to it, report that person. You could save others from becoming victims of the same scam.
Report the scam to BBB Scam Tracker.
File a dispute with the payment app. You may not be able to get your money back, but you can file a dispute with the peer-to-peer payment app you used to have it investigate your claim.
For more information, visit the BBB Tip: Selling used items online and the BBB Scam Alert on overpayment scams for additional information on how to stay safe when selling online.
[ Keep Reading: Can You Get Your Money Back from Payment App Scams? ]